October 23, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: School District Did Not Give Thing of Value to Any One Candidate

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Keim v. Douglas County Public Schools on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Campaign Finance—Fair Campaign Practices Act—Campaign Contributions.

The supreme court reviewed the court of appeals’ conclusion that a school district did not make a prohibited campaign contribution in a school board election campaign under C.R.S. § 1-45-117(1)(a) of Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act and article XXVIII, § 2(5)(a)(IV) of the Colorado Constitution. Under § 2(5)(a)(IV), a “contribution” requires that (1) something of value (2) be given to a candidate, directly or indirectly, (3) for the purpose of promoting the candidate’s nomination, retention, recall, or election. Here, the school district commissioned and paid for a report supportive of the district’s reform agenda using public funds. However, because the school district did not give something, directly or indirectly, to any candidate when it publicly disseminated an email containing a link to the report, the court concluded that the school district did not make a prohibited contribution under these Colorado campaign finance provisions. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statute of Limitations Had Not Run for Enforcing Fair Campaign Practices Act Judgment

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Campaign Integrity Watchdog, LLC v. Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

Fair Campaign Practices Act—Campaign and Political Finance Amendment—Statute of Limitations.

The Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills (Alliance) was established to work for the common good and general welfare of the Woodmen Hills community. Before the 2014 Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District board of directors’ election, Alliance sent postcards and created Facebook posts directed at undermining the character of a board candidate. Campaign Integrity Watchdog, LLC (CIW) filed a complaint with the Secretary of State alleging a violation of § 9 of the Campaign and Political Finance Amendment, Colo. Const. Art. 28 (Amendment) and various violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA). The matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Courts. After a hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the alliance was a “political committee” under the FCPA and it failed to register and file required reports as of the first day of the hearing, June 26, 2014. Thus Alliance violated the FCPA. The ALJ imposed a fine and ordered Alliance to register with the Secretary of State and file all required reports.

Alliance filed a motion to stay the decision, which was denied, and immediately thereafter filed a notice of appeal, which it then withdrew. About a year later, CIW filed a complaint in district court to enforce the ALJ’s decision. Alliance filed a CRCP 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss alleging the Amendment’s one-year statute of limitations barred CIW’s enforcement action. The district court dismissed the complaint, finding it time-barred under the Amendment.

On appeal, both parties agreed that the statute of limitations is triggered by the date of “violation” in § 9(2)(a) of the Amendment, but disagreed about what “violation” means. The Court of Appeals concluded that “violation” means the act(s) of breaking or dishonoring the FCPA or Amendment and therefore the statute of limitations began running the day following the last such act.

The Court then reviewed CIW’s complaint and concluded it could be read to allege a continuing violation of the Amendment, and the record does not show when or if the continuing violation ended. The complaint states a plausible claim of a continuing violation sufficient to withstand a Rule 12(b)(5) motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations.

The order dismissing the complaint was reversed and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.